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Hats off, back on, for creative lady helping cancer patients

Eighty-eight-year-old Virginia Reis volunteers her time to crochet hats for the "Look Good - Feel Better" group which helps women with cancer deal with some of the side effects of cancer treatment. <i>Jillian Dexheimer photos</i>

Each month a group sponsored by the American Cancer Society called "Look Good -- Feel Better" meets.

The group, which is for women dealing with cancer treatments, meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at the River Falls Area Hospital and New Richmond Hospital -- next meeting is Monday, April 1, in River Falls.

Each meeting includes classes to help women overcome the appearance andrelated side effects of cancer treatments, as well as skincare and makeup kits.

"When you look good, you feel better," said Kerrin Frey, a volunteer cosmetologist who works with "Look Good -- Feel Better."

After each meeting the women are invited to take one of the free hand crocheted hats that 88-year-old Virginia Reis makes.

Since starting in spring 2010, Reis -- herself a cancer survivor -- has crocheted over 400 hats.

She got started when Frey asked Reis' six daughters -- Angela, Jane, Teresa, Donna, Lucy and Mary -- if they knew anyone who could make the hats.

The sisters, who have three brothers -- Dan, Joe and Dean -- thought of their mother.

According to Reis, she thought the making of the hats would be a good way to use her "God given talent." The town of Oak Grove resident also cites crocheting as great personal therapy.

"It keeps me busy, I can't stand doing nothing," said the grandmother of 22 and great-grandmother of seven.

Reis, who was married to Herman, before he died in 2005, says that each of the 407 hats she's crocheted is unique.

"I do not use a pattern," she said.

Reis went on to say she likes the challenge of making up the design as she goes.

Using donated yarn, the hats feature a multitude of colors and embellishments. Depending on the thickness of the yarn, each hat varies in size as well.

When asked how much time each hat takes, Reis replied that she was unsure, since she does a little here and there. She did say that if she sat down and stuck with it she could finish one or two hats a day.

Reis is hoping to continue crocheting for the "Look Good -- Feel Better" group for as long as she can.

"I am glad to be able to help a good cause," said Reis, who also enjoys gardening at home and at her lifelong parish -- St. Mary's - Big River.

According to Frey, Reis is "an angel on earth."

The "Look Good -- Feel Better" group will have a booth setup at Relay for Life, April 5-6 at the River Falls High School. They will have Reis' hats on display and will be giving them out to those going through cancer treatments.

In addition to hats, Frey said that many people do not know that the American Cancer Society will pay for one wig for cancer-related hair loss.

To donate materials or money to the "Look Good -- Feel Better" group contact Frey at 715-425-1106.

Jillian Dexheimer

Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.